It’s been more than a year since the pandemic started, and almost all restrictions in Utah have been lifted, including limitations on gyms and events. But people are still looking to spend more time outdoors, which is driving bike sales off the charts.
Michael Strachan is the hard goods equipment buyer at Cole’s Sports. He said this year they’ve already seen more demand for bikes than at the same time last year. He said, that’s likely because there was still uncertainty looming during the beginning of the pandemic.
"Everybody was sitting around wondering what was going to happen to the world," Strachan said. "And it wasn't really until June until things took off. But we've been seeing the demand since December, we were getting phone calls about bicycles. And in the last six weeks, we sold more bicycles than we did three years ago, all together. So it's definitely an earlier start."
Storm Cycles General Manager Eric LaPerle said they’ve never seen demand higher.
"I think people caught on to this idea of being outdoors and riding," LaPerle said. "And the more people that have done that it's sort of really taken off in a way that we haven't seen in years, a whole new group of people riding now, that frankly, when we run into them out there on the trails or riding the bike path, they say, ‘Man, I can't believe I ever went to the gym.’"
He said demand is partially driven by the pandemic, but there’s an added factor of the amount of people who moved to Park City in the last year.
While people turned to online shopping during the pandemic, Strachan said bikes are the kind of thing that most people want to buy in person.
"It's kind of like ski boots, you can't really buy them online and know how they're going to fit," Strachan said. "And there's certain little tweaks and adjustments that need to be made, once the bicycle is purchased that you can't figure out really online. So there's a lot of try it before you buy it. Demo and rental business is very, very strong as well, and was huge last year."
And with two seasons of unprecedented demand for bike sales, he said suppliers can’t keep up.
"There's such a shortage that even the brands themselves can't fulfill the pre-books that were placed last year to bring in bikes for this season," he said. "And people looking to get into cycling right now are having a really hard time finding anything in the used market, and or the price point market, because of the demand."
Even though there are issues with the supply chain, both Cole’s Sports and Storm Cycles still have inventory available.
But LaPerle said customers might need to have more wiggle room when shopping for the perfect fit.
"One piece of advice to folks looking for bikes right now is be a little bit flexible on things like color, and specific parts kits that are on the bike," LaPerle said. "Because it gives the shop a little bit more leeway to go to their vendors and say, ‘hey, I've got a person that needs this bike, we're open to these things.’ And that will help them get a bike sooner."
And for residents who don’t want to commit to buying a bike or can’t find one in stores, the Summit County Bike Share Program is back on for the season.
Bikes went out on the racks last weekend. County Transportation Planner Chris Putt said it already seems like people are eager to take them out for a spin.
"All 20 stations and all 190 bikes are back on the streets available to be ridden," Putt said. "So far, we've already seen a pretty awesome number of uses. We've seen about 280 rides just in the first couple days, and about 1000 miles on the bikes this season already."
The bikes are generally available until there’s snow on the ground. Riders can either pay per ride or get a monthly or annual pass.